Revolutionize Your DIY Blog: Beginner’s Guide to Lightroom
If you’ve ever been scrolling around on Pinterest and been in total awe of the gorgeous home decor photos out there, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Half of what makes those photos gorgeous is in the editing. (Just when you thought you had enough to worry about in learning all the doohickies on a DSLR camera, you get that curveball thrown at you, right? It’s okay. It’s actually fun.)
Last week, when I shared my 8 Tips to Revolutionize Your DIY Blog Photography, I had no idea I’d get such a huge response from you guys! The one request I got the most was from a lot of Picmonkey and Canva users who wanted tips on switching to Lightroom and taking their photography to the next level.
So here I am following through on my promise today. 🙂 I’m still no expert, but I’ve come a long way.
(Affiliate links are provided in this post. For more information, see my full disclosure.)
Up until November a few months ago, I was still using Picmonkey for all of my blog’s photo editing too. I had actually purchased Adobe Lightroom months before, but I couldn’t seem to work up the nerve to dive in and figure it out. I was really intimidated. (Are you feeling the same way right now?)
One day, in the midst of attempting to edit a few photos for my Knock Off No Sew Dining Chairs on Picmonkey, I decided I’d had enough. I took my photos of the project on a rainy day, so the lighting wasn’t very good to begin with.My unedited photos were really grainy and underexposed (since I hadn’t started using my tripod like I mentioned in Week 1) and Picmonkey just couldn’t handle the job. I ended up with these dull, grainy photos with weird white balance that weren’t the worst in the world, but they weren’t amazing either.
On top of the quality not being the best, the editing process took a long time, I’m talking hours. Hours I could have been spending playing with Olivia or writing or working on my next project.
After that, I resolved to overcome my technology phobia and learn Lightroom. (Seriously, why did it take me so long? I’d already bought the software. I don’t even make sense to myself sometimes.)
You know what happened? Awesomesauce editing, that’s what!
Once I started using Lightroom, my blog photos instantly improved and my pageviews nearly doubled. DOUBLED, y’all! In a matter of two months I went from 54,000 pageviews/month to over 102,000 pageviews/month. I won’t go as far to say switching to using a tripod and Lightroom were the only reasons I saw such a big jump, but I think it played a big part.
Okay, so you get it. Photos really really matter.
So if you’re as intimidated by the idea of switching from an online editing program to Lightroom as I was, I’m showing you a step-by-step edit of my Bathroom Plank Wall project a few weeks ago just to show you how not scary it really is.
I mentioned this in last week’s posts already that our master bathroom is a really tricky place to take photos. Even with a tripod, I end up with photos that are rather dark. If I didn’t have that tripod, using the little bit of natural light from our small window would be impossible without a flash (which by the way, you want to avoid if you can).
So here is my shot directly out of my camera, no editing whatsoever. It’s proof I’m still learning.
Here is my editing process in Lightroom:
1. Upload your batch of photosfrom your shoot into Lightroom library. Click the photo you want to edit first in the “develop” tab.
Already, I’ve saved a ton of time in Lightroom than in Picmonkey. I don’t have to open every photo individually. There’s less back and forth. I just click the photo I want in my strip at the bottom of the screen, and it’s ready to edit.
Plus, you can’t go back and edit a photo in Picmonkey. Once you’ve saved it and closed the program, you have to start all over again if you want to make adjustments. In Lightroom, every change you make to a photo saves automatically.
2. Adjust exposure.
See that little chart at the top there? If you’re not familiar with it, that’s a histogram which tells you your light balance. In this photo, because I have so much white reflected from my tub and light from my wall, that higher spike to the right of the histogram is exactly where it should be. Because my plank wall is darker, it is my contrast, which shows in the left side of the histogram.
Picmonkey does not have the histogram feature, so you’re really just eyeballing it.
Another thing you should know, if you are using a DSLR: You have the capability of shooting in RAW, which means your photos are not compressed and they are the highest quality possible. JPEGs, on the other hand, have been compressed so the quality is not as good.
Picmonkey can only edit JPEGs, so if you’re shooting in RAW but editing in Picmonkey, you’re already at a disadvantage.
RAW is great for beginner photographers too because there is a lot more “wiggle room”. If your lighting was off during your shoot, you have a better chance of fixing your mistake in the editing step by working from your RAW file. No file compression means easier cleanup.
I could write a whole other post on RAW versus JPEG, but I’ll save you from that one. Check out this article if you want to learn more about it.
3. Adjust white balance.
Lightroom has two variations of adjusting white balance that makes it so much easier from Picmonkey.
Lightroom allows you to adjust blues/yellows and greens/magentas, whereas Picmonkey only allows you to adjust the temperature “cool” to “warm”. If I have a green or purple hue in my photos, Picmonkey does a sorry job of fixing it.
When adjusting your white balance, you can use the dropper tool to select a white place on your photo to automatically adjust, but it isn’t always accurate for me.
I just look for a white object in my photo to base my white balance adjustments, in this case, it was my bathtub.
4. Enhance clarity.
It is amazing how much clarity can give a photo an extra pop. In Picmonkey, I sometimes ran into the problem of my photo ending up more grainy after enhancing my clarity (because again, JPEG is compressed so it will do this to you).
Enhancing my clarity in a RAW file on Lightroom is much more appealing to me. 5. Increase sharpening.
I love getting sharp-happy in my editing. In Picmonkey, I usually got into trouble because, again, my photos would just end up grainy. Sharpening on the RAW file on Lightroom makes it super crisp. See how much I sharpened it? +115! But it’s not grainy one bit, so I can get away with it. 6. Adjust highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks.
These settings give me tons of flexibility in adjusting my contrasts. Unlike in Picmonkey, I have a lot more control over my lighting balance, so my photos don’t get too washed out with an increased exposure. I’m able to add back in my shadows and blacks as I brighten. They’re fun to play around with too.
(Little OCD moment confession: Adjusting numbers in all of my settings drives me crazy. I always have to adjust them in even numbers or multiples of five. I have to consciously ignore my white balance at the top there ending in a 9 and 1. I’m the same way with my radio and TV volume. And my husband does it too. Maybe we’re both weird.)
7. Create a Preset. (optional)
Whoever came up with this feature when designing Lightroom is a genius. If there was only one reason for me to switch from online photo editing, this would have been it right here.
Once you’re happy with everything on your photo you just edited, you can create what’s called a preset that uses all of the settings you just created in your edited photo.
I usually name my preset using whatever project I’m working on. So “plank wall” for this one. This is almost like copy/pasting all of your adjustments into your other photos.
Once my preset is created, I can open all of my photos in my batch. Click the preset…
…and ta da! Instantly edited photo. It’s so awesome for DIY projects where I have multiple photos of the same space with the same lighting conditions. And I’m done with my editing! I look through my batch to double check and make any minor adjustments if I need to, but it takes much less time than editing each photo individually from scratch like I always had to do in Picmonkey.
Update: I learned a much easier trick than making the preset! Click the image y0u just finished editing in your photo strip at the bottom of the screen. Then, Command + click (for Mac) or Ctrl + click (for PC) any other photos in your batch that you want to have the same edit settings. Your selected photos will be highlighted. At the bottom of the editing panel on the right hand side, click the button that says “Sync”, and the edit settings will be applied to all of your selected photos.
If you’re not doing it already, you really should be adding a watermark to your photos. If your work is being pinned on Pinterest (which I hope it would be), your photos can get disconnected from their original source (your blog!) and you definitely don’t want other people stealing your work and taking credit. (Nothing burns up a former English teacher more than plagiarism, trust me.)
Lightroom will automatically do that for you too as opposed to adding them manually as an overlay on Picmonkey. Highlight all of the thumbnails of your edited photos and right click to get to a pop-up menu. Click export.
Then, you can add your watermark to your entire batch of photos. (Click “Edit Watermarks” if you need to add your watermark and format to Lightroom first.) You can resize your photos to fit your blog too, which can help any loading issues you might run into.
Designate in which folder you want your photos, click export, and your RAW files are converted to JPEG, which you need in order to display them on your blog.
That’s it! If it seems complicated, it’s probably the teacher, not the student. 😉 At this point, your photos are ready to be uploaded to your blog post!
If you’re still scared of Lightroom, let me show you the same photo I edited before but in Picmonkey.
Here’s the same photo “before” shot. Already, I’m working with a poor quality photo because this is a JPEG file. It’s dull and grainy and somehow doesn’t look as 3D. It’s very flat.
I edited my photos the best that I could in Picmonkey, and while it looks pretty good, the white balance is a little off with a green hue that won’t correct in the program. It’s still a bit dark but if I brighten it anymore, some of the details will be washed out. It’s grainy, not as bright, and it pales in comparison to my Lightroom edit.
Here’s my before and after again from Lightroom:
Straight out of camera-
Edited in Lightroom-
And this is my edit in Picmonkey:
(Can you see the difference between the Lightroom edit [above] and Picmonkey edit [below]?)
What do you think? Worth it? It’s like putting in contact lenses after walking around for days half blind, for me. Believe me, I’m still learning. Remember, I only learned this stuff 3 months ago. And probably a year from now, with lots more practice, I’ll know much more.
I’ll still be using Picmonkey for adding text to my images and creating collages, but it’s really nice to have a life now instead of sitting behind a computer screen for hours editing photos I’m not super happy with.
If you use Lightroom, I’d love to know any tips that you have too! And if you’re a newbie at it, I’ll try to answer any questions you have. I love helping out a fellow blogger or photography lover. 🙂
Don’t forget to pin this post in case you need it later: